Racing Beta’s 250RR Race Edition
Story by Brent Farrell, Photos by Full Throttle Photo
There are a lot of ways to test a motorcycle. Getting opinions from multiple riders in various conditions is a good start. Spending considerable time on the bike helps as well. Racing it can also provide great insights. Our goal was to do all of that and do it in a relatively short period of time, specifically, in just twenty-four hours. The annual 24 Hours of Glen Helen has always been a great test of rider and machine and this year was no different. The course incorporates the national motocross track as well as two-track ridges, single-track canyons, rocky creek beds and even a stretch of asphalt. Throughout the event, the course gets beat up and downright nasty in spots. A perfect proving ground. To see all was done to this bike and why, checkout our Bike Build story HERE.
A few years ago we took a 2017 Beta 430 RR-S, stripped off some of the dual-sport equipment and put it on the line. We even rode it to the race. We found the smooth power and plush suspension surprisingly effective on the dry and choppy 24 Hour course. This year we asked Beta if we could take one of the more race-oriented models and they were nice enough to offer us a 2021 250 RR Race Edition. We jumped at the chance. In the end, the bike served us well. It led us to 8th Overall and 1st 40+ Expert team after 24+ hours of and 637 miles of racing around Glen Helen.
To start, this Beta isn’t in completely stock trim as we spent most of our time on it racing it, though we did get a chance to ride it stock briefly. In stock trim, the suspension is very soft and forgiving, but it lacks the dampening and performance needed for high speed, west coast off-road riding and racing. Like most off-road bikes stock, it is setup for east coast terrain. The suspension tended to blow through the stroke on bigger hits and just didn’t have the hold up that we needed to go racing comfortably for 24 straight hours. To note, the bike had roughly 80 hours on it by the time we got it and the suspension hadn’t been serviced in any recent memory. To add to that, all of the riders are on the heavier side of the scale and don’t fit in the target weight of this bike. Add those two up and it’s a recipe for a soft bike in of itself. Additionally, the stock tires were less than ideal. They had seen better days when we got to them, but the Michelin FIM approved DOT tires were not ideal in pushing the limits riding off-road.
The TCS suspension worked great which is no small feat considering we had team members ranging from 150-225 pounds. Not exactly the easiest variable to set up for. Much better hold up and bottoming resistance with the stiffer valving and stiffer springs front and rear. Additionally, it handled well in all of the terrain present which covered just about anything an off-road race will throw at you. High speed whoops, countless square edges, first gear single track and rocks, and flowing two-track roads. In the past, we’ve experienced noticeable fading with Beta suspension in races like this, but this year everything felt solid from beginning to end. That alone has been a concern with some riders but we’re here to say it has improved in the last few years.
Overall, the bike still feels most comfortable in the tighter sections so maybe with more than a few hours of testing we could fine tune it further. The chassis feels very flexy and has some minor quirks that come out as the speeds increase, but it was nothing we couldn’t overcome and get used to. It still feels improved over the last generation Beta’s and by the looks of things, they’ll only get better as time marches on.
As for the rest of the bike’s performance, we found little to complain about. The motor has a lot of torque and a very linear delivery but does sign off a bit early. This forced us to shift a little earlier than normal and almost ride it like a 300cc two-stroke. The six-speed transmission has a great spread of ratios with a gear for every situation from hard-enduro to desert. We found that the best way to ride the Beta is to flow through turns and carry momentum. It really rewards a rider who can be smooth and not bury it into every corner and come out spinning. That’s perfect for an endurance race like 24 Hours.
The ergonomics are very comfortable, nothing seems out of place or odd and all our riders were able to adapt to the Beta in no time. The Nissin brakes are good but do take some getting used to: the rear is relatively unresponsive and after the race needs fresh fluid, while the front brake is quite touchy and requires a deft touch.
When talking about endurance races like the 24 Hours of Glen Helen, a common question is “what went wrong”. Really what they’re asking is what normally reliable part broke at 3 AM that required some crazy MacGyver solution consisting of duct tape, safety wire and hose clamps. After competing in 17 of these events, I can’t count the times I’ve been woken up to someone yelling that the bike is in the pits unexpectedly. That didn’t happen this year. We didn’t have any problems, and by that I don’t mean we didn’t have any problems that had a measurable effect on the race. I mean nothing went wrong. The bike ran flawlessly the entire race, nothing broke, came loose, or wore out prematurely. We rode it for 637 miles, used 40 gallons of gas, changed the air filter three times, changed one set of tires, replaced rear brake pads at the mid-point of the race, and released the pressure in the forks twice. That’s it. We loaned out more tools than we used and I even got a little bit of sleep. That’s always what you hope for, but it doesn’t happen often at the 24 Hours of Glen Helen. Again, this bike was impressive in that way.
Much like our experience with the Beta 430 RR-S a few years ago, we came away with a very positive opinion of the Italian steed. It’s a serious race bike set up for technical riding out of the box, but with a few tweaks it was a capable winning race bike in the fast and rough San Bernardino foothills. As I mentioned, we didn’t have much time to test which makes me think there’s more potential and a long-term test may be in order.